AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott promised to lure more businesses to Texas and punish cities that defund police while sharing his agenda for the 87th Legislative Session on Thursday.
Abbott participated in an indoor event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, where hospitals are critically full, and the city is at its highest level of COVID-19 risk.
About half of the attendees wore masks at the indoor event.
“2021 is going to be even better than 2020,” Abbott said, citing businesses like Telsa and HP that have relocated to Texas. “The United States needs Texas to lead.”
Abbott made little mention of the coronavirus pandemic as he outlined his priorities for lawmakers who returned to the Capitol this week.
He instead called for a law that would allow the state to withhold sales tax revenue from cities that defund police, vowed to fight federal government overreach by the incoming Biden administration and expressed a desire to make Texas a second amendment sanctuary state.
“He’s talking about issues that don’t matter to Texans,” said Abhi Rahman, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party. “He’s talking about issues that really stand to benefit himself.”
Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, heard what sounded like the beginnings of a national campaign.
In an interview in November, Abbott said he was focused on being re-elected to the Governor’s Office in 2022 but did not close the door on a bid for the White House in 2024.
“It was definitely bigger than just a State of the State address,” Rottinghaus said. “(Abbott) at the end was very clear that he thought this was a model that the U.S. could use. Texas can lead the way on conservative values and a strong economy.”
“This is exactly what George W. Bush did when he ran for president. It’s exactly what Rick Perry did when he ran for president. Greg Abbott is following that model to a tee.”
Abbott said he wants to protect Texans with pre-existing conditions and expand telemedicine this legislative session.
At no time during the 30-minute discussion did Abbott mention the state’s coronavirus vaccine rollout or the more than 31,000 Texans who have died from the virus — a challenge Rottinghaus said he won’t be able to avoid.
“If he can’t get past this moment where there’s a tremendous health crisis which is proceeding a tremendous policy crisis then it’s going to be a black mark on his candidacy in Texas and possibly nationally,” Rottinghaus said.
Abbott has not yet announced his emergency priorities for the legislative session which are the first order of business for lawmakers. Those priorities are typically unveiled during the State of the State address.